WILLIE Mullins is on the march again and he limbered up for the big Galway festival with a sparkling three-timer at Cork on Friday evening.
Despite all the recent rain the Mallow venue rode no worse than soft. Punters had some difficulty in balancing the books however, as a few outsiders upset many an applecart.
Mullins and stable jockey Ruby Walsh got the meeting off to the perfect start when Dare To Doubt ran out an easy winner of the opening two mile and four conditions hurdle. A well-backed favourite the King’s Theatre mare, which has been a prolific winner for the stable in spite of disappointing on the level on her most recent outings, was held up in the early part of this five runner contest but made smooth progress to be in contention turning to face the judge.
Whodoyouthink, who was in front right from the off, still held the advantage at this stage but rider Mick Darcy, in his attempt to deny Dare To Doubt a passage up the inside, came off a straight line which momentarily halted the mare’s progress. To her credit however she found an opening and once in front went right away to win unchallenged by nine lengths from Darcy’s mount, with no less that 54 lengths back to the third horse Finger On The Pulse. The steward had a chat with Darcy in the immediate aftermath of the race and handed him a three-day ban for improper riding.
Later in the evening Mullins joined forces with his son Patrick to take the two bumpers on the card courtesy of Digeanta and Tasitiocht.
Plenty of support
Newcomer Digeanta had plenty of support in what looked an ordinary enough contest. He was given plenty of time to find his feet and still had plenty to do off the home turn. At this point Minella Reception was just about to hit the front but Digeanta started to reel him in. The pair had a great battle from the furlong marker, the latter asserting close home for a half length victory.
A son of the Prix del Arc winner Helissio, Digeanta has some trouble with his wind according to Patrick. Better ground would be an obvious help and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.
The Oscar mare Tasitiocht made light of the penalty she incurred for scoring at Kilbeggan to run out a convincing winner of the winners’ bumper. An unbackable favourite at 1/7, the five-year-old never gave those brave enough to support her the slightest cause for concern. She came for her race in the straight and soon had it in control, hitting the wire five and a half lengths to the good over the Paul McEnery runner Deep Trouble.
The wining rider announced that his mount was hating the ground. She could be heading to Galway for a winners’ contest but has the gears to contest a flay maiden a couple of days earlier.
Ruby Walsh was also in form as just over an hour after guiding Dare To Doubt to victory he was back in the winner’s enclosure when partnering Our Girl Lucy to success in the 81-109 handicap hurdle over two mile and four.
Trained by Tom Cooper, whose son Bryan is one of the best young riders around at the moment, the Flemensfirth mare made every post a winning. When push came to shove Our Girl Lucy found plenty to dispose of the challenge of Lucky Pigeon by a length and a half.
Although not exactly fluent at some of her hurdles Our Girl Lucy showed plenty of resolve. Cooper revealed that she will go to Galway for a handicap hurdle, after which she will change codes and go chasing.
The biggest upset of the evening came in the three mile maiden hurdle when the 20/1 chance Bourbon Ellie capitalised on a mistake by Wontbelongnow at the final hurdle to take the three mile maiden hurdle.
The Mullins/Walsh combination were represented by the favourite Champagne Agent but this fellow, after flattering briefly two out, emptied quickly and finished well adrift of the principals. In contrast Bourbon Ellie, which was dropped out early on, made eyecatching progress after leaving the back straight. Coming wide she made the most of the mistake by Wontbelongnow at the last to take the money by a couple of lengths.
This was the first victory on the racecourse proper by jockey Darragh Lambe, who also has a point-to-point winner to his credit. He showed the coolness of a veteran as he weaved his way through the field and is one to keep an eye out for in the time ahead.
Another highly rated young rider, Adrian Heskin, was seen to good advantage as he captured the 82-101 handicap hurdle aboard the 12/1 chance Clara More. He made the job look easy as he had his mount in second place for much of the two mile trip before taking over a the penultimate hurdle and keeping the Luso gelding up to his work in the closing stages to score by two and three-quarter lengths from Frankie Flower.
In last week’s column it was suggested that the Dick Donohoe-trained Happy Anniversary, which ran a blinder at Gowran Park, was in the right hands to exploit her current mark. No sooner was it said than she popped up on the final day at Bellewstown to land the 47-65 handicap, then repeated the dose at Leopardstown on Thursday evening with a victory in the 50-80 apprentice handicap.
The four-year gap since she last won was well worth the wait. Who is to say that she is finished yet.